Queen of Soul

The story behind ‘Respect,’ Aretha Franklin’s iconic feminist anthem

Aretha Franklin performing on the 'VH1 Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin' at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, 4/9/01. (Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect)

The death of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, on Thursday morning prompted a revisiting of the legendary singer’s most memorable songs — not least of which was her stirring feminist anthem, “Respect.” The song, which was written by The King of Soul, Otis Redding, in 1965, was originally meant to be about a man demanding that his wife treat him with respect when he arrives home from work. But when Franklin, then a relatively unknown gospel singer, recorded her own version alongside her sisters Erma and Carolyn in 1965, she transformed it in more ways than one. She upped the tempo, added the iconic “R – E – S – P – E – C – T” chorus and provocative “sock it to me” refrain, and, most importantly, reimagined the song from a woman’s perspective.

“Her remaking of the song gives it a whole different empowerment message, both sexually and politically,” professor Victoria Malawey told AFP, noting that Franklin’s defiant tone clearly showed that she, as a black woman, was demanding respect — not asking for it. The timing of the song’s recording and release in the midst of the Civil Rights movement and rise of second wave feminism added another dimension to “Respect,” which became a hit not only for Franklin’s stirring vocals, but also because of the power of its underlying message.

“Respect” also led to Franklin getting her proper due on the national stage as well. The song won Franklin her first two Grammy Awards, as the singer went on to win 18 Grammys and feature in more than 30 films, including iconic roles in movies such as Platoon, The Blues Brothers, and Forrest Gump.

Below listen to her original recording of the song.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.

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